Monday 19 June, 6 – 7.30pm
Sheldonian Theatre, Broad Street,
Book your tickets here
Tricia Sullivan, who also writes fantasy under the pseudonym Valery Leith, has degrees in physics, music and education. She won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for her novel Dreaming in Smokein 1999 and had books translated into eight languages. Tricia grew up in New Jersey, USA, and now lives in the Shropshire hills in the UK. She is currently working on an MSc at the Astrophysics Research Institute in Liverpool.
Tricia answers our questions:
What attracted you to study science?
I was already a science fiction novelist when I went back to university for physics. Ostensibly this was a pragmatic career change; writing was no longer supporting me financially. But it was also a buried dream. In my youth I was fascinated by science but lacked the discipline to do the hard work. After my kids were born I found the motivation to dig deeper.
What part of writing do you find the most challenging, and why?
I have an improvisational approach that leads me to explore multiple story avenues and mix ideas in ways that are unexpected even to me. Because I work with chaos, I end up throwing a lot away; what's left is complex and intricately constructed. A novel passes through many layers of analysis and reworking before I can see where it’s going or commit to a final structure. Yet I have to put it down for long stretches because it takes up too much mental bandwidth to let me, say, learn computational astrophysics at the same time. If I want an unfinished work to remain alive and functional when I finally pick it up again, I need fairly sophisticated intellectual bookkeeping to track details. My sweatiest effort goes into this laborious bookkeeping.
What advice would you give to your 20-something self?
When you feel insecure you'll be tempted to conform to the overculture just to get by. Don't. Stay dirty and free; the most delicious things grow from dirt. And just because you don’t quite have X together right now doesn’t mean you won’t in the future, so keep an open mind about your own potential to grow. Moreover, the world around you will almost certainly change in unpredictable ways, and even horrible experiences can carry opportunities along in the sidecar. The fact that you can't control things as much as you'd like isn't all bad.
What type of destination is your go-to to unwind / go off-grid?
A cold grey beach in North Wales. Doesn’t have to be cold, but in practice usually is.
What three emojis would you use to describe yourself?
My daughter informs me that my emoji-fu is 'cringey' so I'll have to get back to you after I've taken some lessons.